Mr. Baldwin would stand on his head while we wrote, or use the two tables at the front of the room as props for yoga poses. It was 1993, and I was a sophomore in high school. I felt something different, looking back I can say it was a shy confidence: new haircut, new boyfriend, new class, new outlook on high school…all around being lowest on one less totem pole.
No one said much while Mr. Baldwin did his yoga moves. I’m sure there were some snickers at first, but I remembered thinking how unremarkable we made it. He told us to write about something, and to keep going until he told us to stop. We followed directions, and he stood on his head and waited.
I was organized that fall with a new black binder full of loose leaf paper especially for English class. Freshman year of high school was an obvious clean slate, but sophomore English began my writing life. I can’t honestly say I have that much to show for it, I mean seriously, for someone who thinks and talks about writing this much, you’d be left wondering what does she actually do with all my free time? (Besides incorrectly shifting grammatical positions. And leaving sentence fragments here and there.)
Despite my years of being interested in writing that followed sophomore English, I’ve been inconsistent at best, at doing it, at least for an audience, which is the type of writing that matters most to me, because most of the rest is brain matter that is good to get out and leave behind. (Preferably where others can’t see it.) But before Peter Elbow or Ann Lamott, or Natalie Goldberg, Mr. Baldwin taught me about free writing, which became the basis for so much of my creative energy.
so this weekend, I’m going back to that black binder, to remember what I first felt and saw there before my eyes, that was me.